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    The Most Effective Method to Modify a Human

    “The method is?”

    After momentarily feigning a contemplative expression, Bi Ryu-yeon grinned and said.

    “Isn’t it our task to figure that out from now on?”

    “In other words, you have no idea. How irresponsible of you.”

    Jang-hong rebuked Bi Ryu-yeon for his irresponsible and absurd notion.

    “It’s not like there’s no way at all!”

    Hyo-ryong interjected, instantly drawing everyone’s attention. He seemed to have had a sudden change of heart, contrary to his skepticism earlier.

    “When it comes to modification, the most promising and feasible approach is inducing physiological changes through drugs.”

    “Ah, you mean enhancing bodily functions through drug administration?”

    Jang-hong chimed in, demonstrating his ability to understand Hyo-ryong’s line of thought. Hyo-ryong nodded and continued.

    “Exactly. By continuously administering various drugs to the human body and monitoring the physiological responses, we can adjust the drug concentrations, ratios, and compositions. Of course, we must be prepared for several trials and errors in this process. And there may be physical abnormalities…”

    “But, but that sounds quite frightening.”

    Yoon Junho’s complexion noticeably paled, and beads of cold sweat formed on his forehead. He possessed the discernment to distinguish between jokes and serious matters. And at this moment, his discernment and judgment were painfully clear in warning him that the conversation between Hyo-ryong and Jang-hong was indeed serious.

    “Frightening? We’ll use plenty of anesthetics, so there won’t be much pain. You’ll simply wander in a dreamlike state under the influence of the drugs. Of course, we’ll have to be cautious about drug side effects and addiction.”

    Hyo-ryong uttered these terrifying words to Junho, the subject of the discussion, with a serious face as if it were nothing. His expression was filled with determination, conveying the message, “I’m dead serious, so don’t misunderstand this as a joke.”

    “But isn’t it a bit dangerous to attempt drug therapy for physical improvement with our limited medical knowledge?” Jang-hong raised a question about the potential obstacles likely to arise during the actual implementation stage.

    In fact, attempting to improve the human constitution through drug therapy with their pathetically minimal medical knowledge, barely enough to apply golden sore ointment on cuts, burns, or wounds and roughly wrap them in bandages or apply plasters on sprains or strains, was an absurd notion. If something went wrong, it would be an act deserving of the label ‘murder.’

    “Well, you might experience symptoms like optic nerve paralysis, loss of taste, deafness, or the impairment of two or three out of the five senses. If we assume the worst-case scenario where things go wrong, you might end up with a disabled limb or, at most, lower body paralysis. In the absolute worst case, perhaps full-body paralysis or a vegetative state? It’s unlikely to lead to death. No big deal, right?”

    Hyo-ryong spoke in a truly nonchalant manner, as if discussing an ordinary daily routine.

    “No, I think it’s a pretty big deal. It sounds extremely dangerous and frightening,” Junho interjected, his voice laced with concern.

    “Hmm, so you have serious doubts about the safety of this method.”

    “How can one not doubt it?” Jang-hong nodded in agreement.

    “Honestly, for that issue, we should seek the assistance of experts. The most reliable and definitive approach would be to request help from researchers specializing in the development and manufacturing of venomous individuals or the advancement of jiangshi production. In fact, no one is more knowledgeable about the correlation between drug administration and changes in human physiology than them. They are the leading authorities in their respective fields. Of course, their numbers are extremely rare.”

    “Where can we find such precious individuals?”

    Yoon Junho cautiously asked, his complexion still pale. His current state of mind was desperately hoping that they would fail to find such rare individuals, leading to the miserable collapse of their plan. However, his fervent expectations were shattered, and he had to groan beneath the ruins. The answer left no room for doubt.

    “Here!”

    Jang-hong and Hyo-ryong simultaneously pointed their index fingers at the floor.

    “Here?”

    Bi Ryu-yeon and Yoon Junho also pointed at the floor, bewildered expressions on their faces. Jang-hong then confidently explained.

    “Yes, here. Within the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy, we can find them in an instant. This place is teeming with countless researches in various bizarre fields and the development of techniques that would be considered grotesque outside, as numerous as the grains of sand by the river. If it’s here, we can procure them immediately.”

    Yoon Junho shuddered at the glorious realization that he might inadvertently make a significant contribution as an experimental subject to the advancement of venomous individual research or jiangshi studies.

    His mind was solely preoccupied with devising a way to escape this perilous situation, which was thrilling and stimulating for Bi Ryu-yeon and his companions but utterly terrifying for him. His other thought processes were completely paralyzed.

    However, whether Hyo-ryong was aware of Junho’s distressed state of mind or feigned ignorance, he continued to express his thoughts. The plan was now moving beyond the realm of imagination, gradually gaining more concrete form.

    “The ultimate goal that every practitioner of venomous techniques dreams of is venomous individual research. If we were to name the most renowned venomous individual researchers currently, it would be Dang Gun-hyeok, the Venomous Hand Heartless Doctor of the Snake Heaven Sect, and Pi Cheol-ha, the Deviant Venom of the Venomous King Sect. These two individuals are the most famous masters and rivals in the field of venomous techniques and venomous individual research in the Gangho. Since Pi Cheol-ha belongs to the evil faction, he’s out of the question. Dang Gun-hyeok and his followers are currently conducting venomous individual research right here at the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy. I heard they occasionally assist the Medicine King Sect as well. The masters of venomous techniques are also, in other words, the masters of medical techniques. Venom and medicine are separated by a thin line, and their origins are the same. If we request his help, I believe the idea of physical improvement through drug therapy isn’t entirely impossible.”

    “What about jiangshi research?” Jang-hong asked, questioning why Hyo-ryong had only mentioned venomous individual research while omitting jiangshi studies. His tone implied that jiangshi research was of no concern to him.

    “Ah, of course, it’s not like there aren’t any jiangshi researchers here. If we were to specifically search for a place conducting jiangshi research, the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy would probably be the only option. If anyone attempted such a thing elsewhere, they would immediately be labeled as part of the evil faction, subjected to a severe beating, and their sect would either face complete annihilation or, at the very least, be sealed off and dealt with as a minor sect.”

    Yoon Junho and Jang-hong nodded in agreement with his words. In a society where corpses were regarded as sacred and revered, jiangshi research, which involved toying with the dead, could hardly receive favorable treatment in the eyes of the general public.

    The very idea of developing jiangshi techniques and jiangshi for combat and killing purposes, initially stemming from the combination of Taoist techniques to facilitate the smooth transportation of corpses, was difficult to accept as legitimate. How could the act of desecrating and disrespecting the deceased be justified?

    However, jiangshi techniques were also a field that the evil faction had been consistently and intensively researching due to their outstanding lethality, combat effectiveness, and low maintenance costs compared to the investment required. As a result, even if the righteous faction wished to refrain from jiangshi research, they were compelled to engage in it. They couldn’t simply stand by with wide eyes and be subjected to a one-sided assault. Therefore, with the mindset of knowing one’s enemy being the key to victory, the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy was likely the only place in the orthodox martial arts world where jiangshi research was officially tolerated.

    “Although jiangshi researchers are indeed proficient in administering drugs to the human body, they focus their research on dead corpses, whereas venomous individual research is a discipline that studies living humans. The difference between the two is as vast as the distance between heaven and earth. So, unless we intend to turn Junho into a corpse, venomous individual research has a much higher probability of success.”

    “I see. I hadn’t considered that aspect,” Jang-hong readily conceded, nodding in agreement with Hyo-ryong’s explanation. They needed Junho alive, not in a dead, corpse-like state.

    Absurdly, they were attempting an unprecedented, outrageous, ambiguous, and highly uncertain method of human modification with no guarantee of success.

    ***

    The Anxious and Trembling Huashan Disciple

    As the initially absurd story gradually took on a more concrete form and started to make sense, Yoon Junho’s inner anxiety began to intensify. Even if he were sitting on a pitch-black, poisoned thorn cushion, playing with a swarm of vipers, he wouldn’t feel this uneasy. His dark and pale face was drenched in cold sweat, streaming down from his forehead like flowing water. It was a testament to the immense tension he was experiencing at the moment.

    “Um, excuse me…” Yoon Junho managed to speak, barely enduring the suffocating tension. His throat felt so constricted that he doubted whether he was effectively communicating his intentions.

    “What? Do you have any other concerns?”

    It was evident that he was engulfed in worries that could easily fill five carts, although he couldn’t express them verbally.

    “Ah, no. I was just thinking… wouldn’t it be better to consider other methods?”

    “Why? This method is as reliable as it gets. Fortunately, it’s possible because this place is the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy. Do you think it would even be conceivable anywhere else? Don’t regret it and push forward with this approach,” Hyo-ryong stated firmly.

    However, as Junho stared into Hyo-ryong’s sparkling eyes, he couldn’t shake off the suspicion that he was proceeding with the matter out of sheer curiosity. Wasn’t he gleaming with innocence like a child with a new toy in front of him? This only heightened Junho’s unease and made him shudder.

    “What’s the matter? Are you worried they might not accept you?”

    “That’s part of it, but…”

    Junho foolishly lied. Why did he do that?

    “Don’t worry. If there’s a researcher who doesn’t want a fresh and young body like yours, they must be out of their mind. Literally insane. It’s a one-in-a-thousand chance for a robust test subject like you to walk in on their own,” Hyo-ryong reassured him.

    Hearing such words only strengthened Junho’s belief that he couldn’t entrust his body to the hands of a venomous individual researcher. He sensed an impending crisis, realizing that hesitating too long might lead to unforeseen humiliation.

    “Even if I regret it later, wouldn’t it be better to explore other options? I am deeply grateful for your efforts on my behalf, but I don’t want to rely on substances like drugs to change my body. It seems to deviate from the righteous path,” Junho managed to express his thoughts while profusely sweating, feeling a sense of relief in his chest. To which Hyo-ryong replied nonchalantly,

    “You’re right. It does deviate from the righteous path. This is a kind of expedient method.”

    “What did you say?”

    Junho asked back, his expression filled with disbelief. His short question carried an implicit rebuke, questioning how a person claiming to be a friend could so casually recommend something that strayed from the righteous path. He decided to verbalize the implicit message conveyed by his expression, judging that it would aid in communication.

    “How can you so casually recommend something that deviates from the righteous path as if it’s someone else’s problem?”

    “But it’s the most feasible method. Above all, it’s for your sake. No matter how much I think about it, this seems like the best approach. Why don’t you just think of it as taking a tonic and give it a try?” Hyo-ryong showed no signs of giving up.

    “Please, even if the feasibility is much lower, could you consider a different method? I won’t forget this favor,” Junho pleaded, blinking his rabbit-like, innocent dark eyes. Hyo-ryong’s resolve weakened at the sight. Although his mind kept repeating that he shouldn’t do this, he couldn’t forcefully impose something that the person himself strongly refused. In such matters, personal will was of utmost importance.

    ‘The righteous path? But does such a thing even exist? A way to solve hypersensitivity without relying on drugs…’ Hyo-ryong became lost in deep thought. Jang-hong also joined in pondering alternative solutions. However, it was unlikely for an easy answer to present itself. Even the absurd idea of human modification had only emerged after much deliberation.

    As they were floundering in the well of their deep contemplation, a voice shattered their reverie.

    “Is it absolutely necessary to resolve the plum blossom hypersensitivity?”

    The owner of the voice that mercilessly disrupted their thoughts was none other than Bi Ryu-yeon.

    What shocking opinion was he planning to offer this time?

    “What did you say?”

    Surprised by the unexpected remark, the three of them focused all their senses and attention on Bi Ryu-yeon.

    “What about the human modification plan?” Hyo-ryong asked, sounding regretful as he had already enthusiastically engaged his mind in the matter.

    “Well, it’s a great pity, but if he doesn’t want it, what can we do?”

    “True. So, what method do you propose this time?”

    “My point is that we don’t necessarily have to focus on resolving Junho’s hypersensitivity as the solution to the problem.”

    “Why? If not, Junho will never be able to execute the Plum Blossom Sword Technique. He’ll forever be reduced to a laughingstock among them.”

    “That’s it!”

    “What is?”

    Hyo-ryong spoke with a puzzled expression, still unable to comprehend what Bi Ryu-yeon meant.

    “There’s no need to fixate on reaching the realm of sword fragrance. The problem lies in the fragrance itself, right? If there’s no plum blossom fragrance, there won’t be any hindrance to Junho executing the sword technique. Isn’t that so?” Bi Ryu-yeon asked, reiterating as if seeking confirmation.

    “Well, that’s true.”

    Despite his words, Hyo-ryong’s expression clearly indicated that he still couldn’t fully grasp the idea.

    “You still don’t get it? You’re really slow-witted.”

    Hyo-ryong’s elegant brows slightly furrowed. “It’s sad that you’re misrepresenting my intellectual level, but I’ll forgive you. So, quickly tell me,” he said, implying that he would tolerate being called stupid just this once, so Bi Ryu-yeon should hurry and explain.

    “So, if we completely eliminate the fragrance itself from his sword technique, it should work.”

    “By what means?” Hyo-ryong questioned, opening his eyes wide.

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